After Proposition 8 passed and some in the film community were calling for a Sundance boycott, fest director Geoff Gilmore promised to take special steps to appease their concerns about supporting anti-gay businesses. Did he?
Here's the plan Gilmore and director of programming John Cooper gave to the New York Times in December:
The festival, for instance, will make certain that no film is screened only in the Holiday Village theater in Park City, operated by Cinemark, a chain whose chief executive, Alan Stock, donated to Proposition 8’s backers in the November election. The idea is to give anyone who has qualms about Cinemark the opportunity to see a movie somewhere else.
But, given the dearth of theaters, programmers don’t intend to abandon the Holiday Village.
“We don’t have an alternative,” Mr. Gilmore said. “If we had another theater we could walk down the street to, we might be thinking about that.”
On its face, such a plan seemed superfluous: most Sundance films screen publicly around four to six times in several different theaters—including ones in Salt Lake City—so there was never any chance that a film's public screenings would be held exclusively at the Holiday Village (especially when they tend to premiere at big venues like the Eccles or Egyptian Theatre before working their way down to smaller screening rooms).
Running parallel to those public screenings are ones for press and industry only, and it's here that the Cinemark situation not only wasn't rectified, but has actually gotten worse.
For film critics and buyers who want to see as many films as possible, the press/industry screenings are the only way to go: no tickets are needed beforehand, and the screening experience is quick and easy (unlike public screenings, which sell out beforehand, start late, are buttressed by introductions and Q&As, and occur in isolated areas). Until this year, the press screenings were typically held in three locations: two separate, makeshift screenings rooms in the Yarrow Hotel, and one screening room in Cinemark's Holiday Village multiplex (just across a parking lot from the Yarrow).
Ironically, programmers have eliminated one of the two Yarrow screening rooms this year and made up for the loss by adding another to the Holiday Village. Since each film gets only one official press/industry screening (a precious few popular films sometimes get an encore screening near the end of the festival), this ensures that at least two-thirds of the festival's programming will only screen for the industry at Cinemark-owned theaters—and that includes gay-themed films like Dare and One Day in a Life. Press and industry who don't want to patronize the Holiday Village could always request comped tickets to public screenings, but Sundance rules permit only one comped ticket per day.
As Gilmore has said, there's a dearth of screening rooms in Park City, so abandoning the Holiday Village entirely would have been a difficult proposition. Still, the official line that steps were taken to assuage activist concerns increasingly appears to be little more than a snow job.